I haven’t written on politics in recent months because events have had an unbelievable element (you could just about guarantee that whatever was most unlikely would come to pass.) It is difficult to poke fun at something that would be hilarious if only it weren’t so serious. One cannot really castigate the Americans for being so stupid as to elect Trump, when we have ended up with Brexit (which was not, I believe, our intention.)

We voted blindfolded for Brexit with no real understanding of what it would mean. Although I do hold it against the politicians for not unearthing more facts rather than just attempting to frighten us into voting as they desired, I think as the complexities of the matter unfolds that it would have been impossible to predict accurately what was likely to happen. We still don’t really understand what the outcome will be and our politicians have no idea either. Matters are too complex and inter-related and unpredictable. It’s rather like a meeting of the Mafia with too many Families present.

I watched Nigel Farage interviewed by Piers Morgan. In spite of his dismal reputation, I think Morgan is one of the finest interviewers operating today. I always find him almost more interesting to watch than the interviewee. He has enough empathy and charm to lead the person into dangerous areas of their hinterland before they realise where they are headed (in spite of their wary experience and skill in being interviewed); he actually listens to what they say and will pause to explore anything interesting that turns up; but for all he participates in the conversation, when you watch him you can see that throughout he also retains an editorial detachment.

Although I have never voted for Ukip, I can understand why people did. Farage, who is I think genuine in that he sincerely believes what he says and is not particularly motivated by personal gain, is an interesting character. I have never heard him say anything which I personally found offensive. I do not think wishing for us to have control of immigration, is in any way racist; nor is a desire for Britain to remain recognisably British in culture and language, welcoming in-comers but expecting them to speak English and to recognise that while their history enriches our own, ours is the dominant culture, and we wish it to remain so. If they so disapprove of our culture, why have they come here? They should go somewhere else that is more to their liking.

No doubt there are undesirables within Ukip, but they also lurk in every other political party.

And talking of undesirables, did I hear Tony Blair being so bold as to talk to us – actually offering advice – on Brexit? Does he not realise that we have left him unchallenged for answers to the charges against him only because we are ashamed he was our prime minister and we have not got the stomach to endure the humiliation of going through all that again? Advice for Tony Blair. Don’t talk to us. Don’t comment on our affairs. Don’t come here. Don’t presume to give us advice. We don’t want your advice. We took it before and look where it got us. What you should do is lie very low, forever, in case our anger overcomes our shame, and we come after you.



I was thinking recently of how much I cared about my possessions, and came to the conclusion, not really very much. That’s not to say that I don’t value them and enjoy them, for I do; and of course I wouldn’t like to lose them. Yet faced with the question, what would you save from the fire, I just think the baby (if you had one) and the cat (likewise). My writing I couldn’t replace; but then I had the pleasure of writing it. I don’t really have sentimental attachment to stuff. I’d just get new stuff.

So I look at the collection of objects on the sill of my bedroom window.

On the left is a small square ceramic white lidless box, containing about a dozen small green stones roughly the size of an old penny. I have always been very fond of ceramics and also of boxes so this is a double hitter. The stones within are greenstone, which Rory picked up on the beach at McQuarrie Harbour, Tasmania. He shoved them in his pocket and carried them with him round the world on his gap year trip. When eventually he came home, he emptied the pockets of his threadbare jeans out on the kitchen table and gave the raw gemstones to me. I say I don’t feel sentimental about stuff, but had he brought me emeralds, I could not have valued them more. They are beautiful; he bent and chose each one. They are like a talisman. And I have been also to McQuarrie, though not with him. I have walked the beach of the lagoon, and studied the alarming wall of foaming green water piling up in its outlet to the Pacific, while a enormous gull struts along the empty beach as if he owns it, keeping his evil eye on us.

Next come one of two rectangular green ceramic dishes which I bought in Sainsbury’s bathroom section, half price. On each of them stand 2 small candles, layers of different shades of green wax in small clear glasses, a gift from Joanna, and a white ceramic bird. I bought the birds in the South of France, while we were the guests of Hedwig and Hily van bladel, and Hedwig had produced this marvellous shop of furniture and ‘objets’, out of thin air.

Then come a pair of small glass birds, which I bought in a charity shop in Hurstpeirpoint, with Carolyn. I remember we both had a spectacularly good haul that day, for she also spotted for me a black summer suit with a jacket embroidered with white flowers and a flared skirt the same. I said it would not suit me because the skirt was flared at the hem; she said it would be fine because of the embroidery. Carolyn had such excellent taste that one always deferred to her judgement: she was right as usual. I bought it very doubtfully, but it did suit me, and (a great bonus!) it was comfortable to wear.

The glass birds sit on a small rectangular Japanese dish decorated with thistles which Elisabeth and I bought in a china shop in Asakuso, Tokyo.

Finally there is one of a pair of pale green dishes given to me by Joanna, used to serve avocado. (When I wrote this I thought there was only one avocado dish outstanding, but I have since discovered the other.) It holds 2 onyx eggs in a mottled green, white and a pale brown. I do not remember how I came by the onyx eggs. I liked them (I tend to like anything made of stone.) My mother had a collection of them which I used to add to when I saw one. Perhaps John bought me those two for myself; perhaps Eugene gave me them after my mother died. I don’t know – but I’m pleased to have them.

So there’s a collection of objects liked by me. There’s no financial value in them. It is nice to have them, but if (God forfend!) I should lose these articles, I’d be sad, but not heart broken.

I would still have the memories.

season of looking forward

We went to Nyman’s today (one of the great Sussex gardens, probably at its best in May, but with a magnificent and famous summer border made of annuals ). It was one of those mild and dreary winter days when you could never say it was actually raining but the air was heavy with moisture and everything was constantly wet. I sat in the car and read the paper while John took Milo (Elisabeth and Robert’s dog who is residing with us somewhat reluctantly while his family is in New Zealand) through the woods where dogs are permitted. Underfoot was hard going because there were inches deep of mud. MILO loves mud. When he came back, wagging his tail, clearly delighted, people were taking detours to avoid him and he had mud everywhere, even on the top of his head. ( I presume it was Milo people were avoiding and not John, although he alleges that when he marches along, growling and scowling, and wearing his Grumphy Old Man hat, crowds part before him!)

John and I then walked in the garden proper, where we stuck to the paths. Although this kind of damp days do not enhance visual perception, they are wonderful for smell.

We passed through a wooded area with clumps of snowdrops. How cool and lovely they look, with their drooping delicate white flowers and their dainty edging of green. They remind me of Carolyn. Her birthday was on 3oth January and I used to try to find her a birthday card with snowdrops on it,for not only was this flower in blossom when it was her birthday, it was somehow emblematic of her with its dainty strength-in-fragility; and besides she was no strumpet of a nasturtium or overblown dahlia. Beside the snowdrops in Nymans are the larger leukojums which always look clumsy and oversized by comparison.

They have quite a large collection of Davidia here (the handkerchief tree, which has large white bracts in late/April or May and in certain glorious years this blossoming coincides with rivers of bluebells lapping at their feet)) and they are noticeable at this time of year with their distinctive shape – trunk rising straight to higher then human height, and then very wide horizontal branches, plus their oval fruits dangle like small eggs from an Easter decorated tree.

I smell the sarcoccoca before I spot it – an entirely nondescript flower on a bush with the scent of a sweet with writing on it we used to get as children. There were daffodils at the stage of stalks swollen with flowers to come. The many magnolias were in fat bud. We came across a daphne bholua with its pink flowers quite noticeable yet of its exquisite fragrance, not a trace. I marched round it, sniffing here and there: nothing. Yet on our return I could smell its sweet perfume long before we could see it, although once again, when we actually arrived at it, it gave off no smell.

The famous late summer border composed entirely of annuals was just a dark empty stretch, a blaze of colour only in the Head Gardener’s notebook at present, and the herbacious border although it had life stirring in it, in no way suggested how glorious it could look in just a few months.

I had brought back to my house from Elisabeth’s some hyacinth bulbs that she had planted in a creamy ceramic bowl, and now they are flowering, waxy white on my kitchen table, with their wonderful smell floating mysteriously now and then on the invisible air streams.

Milo smells of mud and wet dog – an acquired taste. I think.

I reflect that this is the season of Looking Forward. We still have February and March to get through and I remember from my Northern childhood that these could be ferocious months. Although it seems many years since the sea froze at our ankles and our breath made viewing patches on the inside of our bedroom windows, the winter wolf just sleeps in his den: eventually he will emerge again and stalk us with his deadly intent. But not, I think, this winter.